The Business On... Ricardo Leiman, chief executive, Noble Group

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The Independent Online

Casino capitalism coming unstuck?

Now then! But it is true that Ricardo Leiman has resigned after the commodities trader announced its first quarterly loss for more than a decade. The 45-year-old Brazilian will, however, continue to advise Noble Group, having announced his departure for "personal reasons".

What's happened, then?

Mr Leiman and the company's founder, Richard Elman, who will take his place for now, probably spit tacks every time someone compares what their company does to gambling. But it has been caught out by sharp swings in the price of cotton.

Shouldn't Mr Leiman have been good at this?

You'd think so. He's been with Noble since 2006, having started his career with the French bank Crédit Lyonnais in Brazil. He's also worked at Louis Dreyfus Commodities, Eximcoop in the Netherlands and Trader Classified Media in London and Paris.

This sort of business isn't exactly forgiving, though.

Far from it. Glencore, the commodities giant, also lost money on cotton in the first half of the year and fired the man in charge of that division. Mr Leiman had been overseeing a possible spin-off of the Singapore-listed group's agricultural division, Noble Agri. His departure leaves this open to question. It's also spooked the bond markets.

It's not the only challenge he's faced, is it?

No. Mr Leiman was involved in controversy back in March when he indicated that Noble would pay export taxes demanded by the then embattled President of Ivory Coast Laurent Gbagbo. It was feared the latter would confiscate cocoa stocks if they did not, although other traders said they would not pay up and Noble later clarified its comments. Mr Gbagbo was arrested in April, solving that little problem.